On a very beautiful September evening, it was such a real joy for the members and friends of the Fermoy Toastmasters Club to resume their regular fortnightly gatherings on Tuesday, the 9th, at the Grand Hotel, beginning as always precisely on time at 8.15 pm, for an equally precise conclusion two hours later.

It was great to be back again among so many genial familiar faces and a very special pleasure to meet a number of first time guests. It was in that open-hearted and welcoming spirit that our President, Mary Whelan, inaugurated the meeting and the new season that stretches before us like a river of great promise. She spoke from the heart of her joy and pleasure at being among friends on this special evening and warmly thanked the members for their continuing enthusiasm and dedication that has sustained our club for so very many years as we embrace the challenges of the future. We are so honoured, delighted and privileged to have Mary’s leadership for the coming year.

Control of the meeting was then passed to David Walsh who introduced the speakers and guided proceedings along with flawless skill and assurance, setting everyone at their ease and with his eloquent and thoughtful words greatly enhanced the meeting and built up a genial and conducive atmosphere that had us all giving of our very best.

This was underscored during our two topics sessions both before and after the tea break in a dazzling performance from Jerry Hennessy offering a whole series of entertaining, challenging and stimulating themes. A good topics sessions makes for a great meeting and this was truly one of the very highest quality with members asked to give their ideas and reactions impromptu to everything from the cancellation of the Garth Brooks concerts to the assertion that while you can buy fashion you are born with style, from the whimsical as to how should Queen Elizabeth be made welcome to Fermoy to the importance of breakfast as the first meal of the day.  These and so many more elicited a huge variety of crisp, witty, engaging responses that were especially memorable for their wisdom, insight and humour, such as Eilish Ni Bhriain’s comment on fashion that by dressing in what you are comfortable you will always look good in it, or Mairead Barry’s brilliant response when asked about what makes for the truly Good Things in life, that it is all the things that are forbidden!

Between the first topics session and the tea break, we had three very fine set speeches. Unlike topics, these are the fruits of the considered thought and reflection of the speakers distilled from their own reflection and experience. Kevin Walsh spoke on the theme of patience to which he was drawn after recently seeing an irritated van driver angrily sounding his horn at two frail elderly people attempting to cross the road.  Our high-tech instant society has spawned a fretful impatient culture that makes for stressful and pressurised lives. He went on to say that it is those who are prepared to bide their time who win the day like the lady who calmly and determinedly sat in the waiting room of an insurance company office who were trying to avoid paying her claim and who stayed there until she received what was rightfully hers. This particular section of Kevin’s address was very well received by the audience.

Then we had a sensitive and gentle account from one our newest members, Margaret Goggin, of her discovery of the richness that cats can bring to your life when she opened her home and kind heart to an abandoned feline. Never having had one before as a domestic pet, the whole experience was a learning curve as the cat – named ‘Maisie’ – gained a very comfortable home with every care and attention, while Margaret gained a new source of satisfaction and enjoyment. As she wryly observed, dogs may have masters, but cats have slaves. But it is a gentle and rewarding slavery. At the heart of this sweet discovery was how any initial uncertainty soon gave way to the joy of curiosity as the mysterious world of the cat revealed its happy secrets.

This was such a lovely speech and marks Margaret’s second assignment from the Communication & Leadership manual, drawing her material from her own experience which is always the richest and best source of inspiration for all good speechmaking and storytelling. In such a short time Margaret is making an outstanding contribution to our club and we look forward to the pleasure of her continuing participation and support far into the future.

Our third speaker of the evening was Mary Murphy who told us of how as a left-handed person or southpaw she underwent what turned out to be the ordeal of an Alpine skiing holiday some years ago. She recounted vividly and animatedly with lively gesture and ready humour of her efforts to negotiate the hazards of descending snow-covered mountainsides for beginners only to repeatedly fall and tumble helplessly, not to mention the dizzying fear of vertiginous heights when looking down from cable-cars over plunging dramatic gorges and crags. No champion skier she proved to be, she told us, and that is surely no bad thing, for while skiing at its most proficient may well be very exhilarating, it is as so many (like Michael Schumacher) have found out to their great cost a dangerous and hazardous sport.  Mary is a person of dignity, charm and grace who brings a very special quality of friendship to our club, something assuredly far more valuable and impressive than all the world’s mountain peaks.

No speaker stands alone, they receive the ready appreciation of the meeting as well as positive feedback and encouragement from designated evaluators, a role discharged so effectively by Fanahan Colbert, Frank O’Driscoll and Kieran Connolly, the latter evaluating Mary’s misadventures on the slope in the same animated style with which she had made her speech and was the very well-deserved winner of the Best Evaluation ribbon. Johanna Hegarty as General Evaluator then gave her overall impression of the meeting hailing it as a good and positive beginning to what will surely be a great season ahead.

And it is just the beginning. A long and wonderful journey of enjoyment, personal growth and pleasure beckons. We hope you will join us for our forthcoming meeting in the Grand Hotel, on Tuesday evening next, September 23rd, at 8 .15 pm.  For further information, please contact Fanahan Colbert at 086 8239007 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.